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One could say that writer-director Ranjith has lost his charm because the last time he enjoyed success was in 2012 with the Mohanlal- starrer Spirit. Here, in this comedy crime drama he tries to take a relevant subject and mixes it with clichés.
Nithyananda Shenoy (Mammootty) is a gangster (sort of) who runs a clandestine organized crime unit in and around his native place, Kasargod. Following the demonetization of old INR 500 and INR 1000 notes by the Indian government in November 2016, Shenoy believes that a minister who he had a recent deal with knew about the demonetization beforehand and hence paid the due amount in old notes. In an attempt to teach him a lesson, he travels to the minister's native (Kochi) with his chums and tries to threaten him. How this single episode leads to an extension of Shenoy and his chums' eventful stay in Kochi and the ways in which they try to salvage it forms the crux of the story. Meanwhile, Muthuvel (Swaraj Gramika), a young foxy, streetwise boy gets unknowingly embroiled in this mess.
The film is nothing about black money or new money (whatever you want to call it). Instead, it deals with a handgun which finds its way in places where it shouldn't be (that's basically all places, if you think about it). The topic of demonetization is touched once or twice at the beginning, and that's it, making one wonder how they came up with the title. The second issue with the film is the language used by the characters. It is supposed to be pure Kasargod Malayalam dialect, making it difficult for the general audience to follow most of the dialogues.
Coming to what makes the film watchable: Gramika's performance as this boy who shows real grit in his actions. He is a character that is well-developed, giving the viewers much relief from the clichés. Apart from that, it is the usual high-octane entry sequences, dialogues, and stunts that one sees in such gangster films. Not to talk about their novelty, they just make the film look glamorous when there are better things to focus on. A tinge of humor in some scenes concerning Shenoy surprisingly work for the film.
As always, Mammotty shines as the protagonist. Even though he uses his usual style and glamour (last seen in disastrous The Great Father (2017)) to entertain, it is the peculiar appearance and the Kasargod air that make his character interesting here. Gramika steals the limelight hands down, followed by Baiju and Siddique. Supporting cast act fine.
There is nothing else to talk about here other than the fact that it is not as bad as the audience said when it first came out. There are many more Malayalam films in 2017 that are worse.
BOTTOM LINE: Renjith's "Puthan Panam" is a film that uses a relevant subject to attract its audiences and gives a lecture on a different subject when they finally arrive. The well-constructed plot and marginal suspense save it from being boring. An easily forgettable yet casual film that can be viewed once. Rent a DVD!
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES
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